So, I’ve been reading a lot of manga and watching a lot of anime over the last year. I also watched a bunch of a movies and TV shows. One thing seemed to show up a lot and that was a plot or scene where friends fight. I saw it was Luffy vs Sanji in One Piece, Meliodus vs Ban in Seven Deadly Sins, Superman vs the Justice League, and the list keeps going on as long as the story was action-based. Even those that weren’t had at least a yelling match between friends. So, why does this keep happening?
All I can do is look at my own stories and see if I’ve done it, which had me running through Legends of Windemere. Luke Callindor and Nyx fought during their first encounter, but I don’t remember any real throw down among the champions. Maybe it’s been so long that I forgot, which is possible. For some reason, I seem to always want to through body switching or mind control into the scenario. This removes a lot of the real tension and weight of the fight because at least one combatant isn’t in their right state of mind. I know some much later books on my ‘to write’ list will have some feuding friends that tests the relationship, but I don’t think I really tried this yet.
I might have answered my own question too. These types of fights result in a massive test of the relationship. Instead of a simple debate or disagreement, two established friends have decided to come to blows. In some stories, this is explained as men only being able to settle differences with their fists. This gets used even if one or both of the men are actually women. It works off the personality type that needs to either give or receive a thrashing to see clearly, which isn’t that common a thing in reality. At least, it isn’t one that can legally settle problems the way they want to. For this, you really need to establish the right culture, world, and characters for it to work. Beyond that, you have friends who have come to a major impasse and lose their tempers. Some fights can be for one of their own good to stop them from making a mistake and others are to see who will get their way, but the result is always a change. Real people and characters don’t get into a slugfest and stay the same.
Change is an important part of this event too. It can show how the two characters have changed in a way that they are not as compatible as they once were. A fight may be the catalyst for a new stage of growth between them too. As weird as it sounds, they might need that release to get over a hill that would erode the entire story. Much of this depends on personality and the stress put on the characters over the course of the journey. If you have one becoming cynical and the other staying optimistic then you can see an easy source of conflict. A fight could result in one finding more positivity in the world and the other seeing that there is more darkness out there than they realized. This still borders on being something that only happens in fiction, but it’s been done a lot as a method of character development.
Personally, I think you need a long build up for this type of scene to work. It has to be done in stages if you want a good emotional payoff:
- You need to establish the relationship as something solid and deep. Having casual acquaintances get into a fight lacks the same weight as best friends. An example that will get me in some trouble is Iron Man and Captain America. In the comics, they had been friends for years with a lot of established history. So, the Civil War story line in the comics had a lot of emotional impact because they were truly close friends that decided to resort to violence against each other. In the movies, (at least to me) they never really hit that note with them butting heads in Avengers 1, actually battling in Avengers 2, and then the big war. Forgetting the opinions on why I could be wrong here, I think an issue is that there wasn’t enough time put into establishing a truly solid bond between the characters.
- Gradually build up the issue that will cause the conflict. Don’t drop something into the mix and then have them begin fighting. That will seem out of character because they were tight only moments before. Have them voice differing opinions to each other or secondary characters. Give them some solo time where they make decisions that will feed into the looming conflict. As time goes on, make it clear that there is one thing that these friends will disagree on. This way, the actual event feels like an inevitable point of the story.
- Do not go overboard if you want to maintain the relationship. There are some things that you cannot come back from. We’re mostly talking about friends fighting and then staying friends here too. Not one going villain and the other staying hero. You need to make sure the issue is not so big that they can never go back to being friends even if it’s not as strong a bond. It can even come from a third party who manages to snap them back to their senses. Helps to do some research into previous uses of the plot ‘twist’ or consider your own friendships. Talk to your best friend about what would happen if you two were in the situation and you might find an answer to this part.
As I start working towards War of Nytefall: Rivalry, which has a version of this, I’m curious to know what people think of this topic. Have you ever written a fighting friends scene? Do you think this always has to end in the death of a friendship or can it be done without sacrificing the entire relationship?